Heidi doesn’t hear all that well and is going blind. But knock on Clarence Root’s door at his Vicksburg apartment and Heidi is there to challenge the intruder. Fellow Chihuahua and much younger companion, Scrapper, barks too, but settles down quickly once Clarence demands quiet.

The two tiny dogs are among the nearly 100 dogs that the 80-year-old Clarence has had over his long life. Remarkably, they are his first pets. All the others were hunting dogs that he trained and sold when he was living in Portage decades ago.

These two, however, are special friends for Clarence, who is essentially home-bound and hasn’t driven a car for at least 10 years. A retired long-distance truck driver who owned and operated his own truck, he currently lives on Social Security payments alone and is able to keep his beloved dogs thanks to Senior Services Southwest Michigan’s Pet Food Bank.  Senior Services accepts pet food and monetary donations.

A Kalamazoo native, Clarence served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1958, returning to Kalamazoo after his discharge to live and work as an independent truck driver. In 1972, he and his then-wife moved to Vicksburg where he remains.

For years he purchased the dog food from his limited Social Security income.  He gets many of his own meals from Senior Services Meals on Wheels program. A few years ago, a senior Services representative came to check on him and mentioned the pet food option. “I didn’t know one was available,” he said. “She set it up and once a month I get dog food delivered.

I very much appreciate it and it really helps me out. And its good dog food, not off brands. Heidi and Scrapper love it. Without the help I really couldn’t afford to have dogs. They are such good companions and I really don’t know what I’d do without them.”

Clarence is alone most days and his dogs are often the only company he has. “Clarence and his dog Heidi are like an old couple because she would sit next to him when I come to do my home visits.” said Dolores, who visits home-bound seniors in the Meals on Wheels program. “He was diagnosed with a serious illness and I’d say he is one of our success stories not only for the pet food but other things.  He quit smoking, began eating better and then hospice gave up on him because he was getting better!  Mr. Root is a feel good story because his dogs are his daily companions and he is able to get pet food for them and food for himself!”

Heidi and Clarence have been together for about 10 years and Scrapper joined him a year ago when his owner, a family friend, did not want to keep him. Clarence thought a new dog could learn to be a good dog like Heidi.  There is a bond between Heidi, Scrapper and Clarence.  He can talk to them; tell them his thoughts without getting any unkind feedback. They also protect him like four-legged door bells.  It is safe to say that throughout Clarence’s struggles only Heidi and Scrapper have been consistent in his life.

Senior Services of Southwest Michigan Accepts Pet Food

Senior Services accepts dry dog and cat food in bags that weigh 10 pounds or less for easier handling by seniors. An annual collection drive is held in October, a collaboration between RSVP, Cool 101 FM, and several Harding’s Friendly Markets.  RSVP – Your Invitation to Volunteer, is a national service program of Senior Services of Southwest Michigan that connects volunteers with area organizations.  In person donations are accepted during business hours at Senior Services of Southwest Michigan, 918 Jasper Street, Kalamazoo. Monetary donations are also welcomed and can be dropped off at Senior Services or by clicking here to donate now. If making an online donation, please reference Petfood18 in the “Add special instructions to the seller” section of the donation page.

More information on helping older adults and their pet companions, please contact Senior Services of Southwest Michigan at 269-382-0515.